(Source: PTI)

Tourism Minister Defends ‘Adopt A Heritage’ Scheme, Says Dalmia Group ‘Cannot Touch’ The Red Fort

The Dalmia Group’s decision to adopt the Red Fort in New Delhi under the government’s ‘Adopt a Heritage’ scheme does not mean the monument had been handed over to the company.

That’s the word from Minister of State for Tourism KJ Alphons. The scheme allows private entities to only augment peripheral services like drinking water, toilets and other amenities, Alphons told BloombergQuint in an interview.

Dalmia owns nothing in it. The [Red] Fort belongs to the people of India and will continue to do so.
KJ Alphons, Minister of State, Tourism

Earlier this week, the announcement that the Red Fort will now be maintained by the Dalmia Group under the ‘Adopt a Heritage’ scheme caused a great deal of political furore. Opposition parties led by the Congress accused the central government of ‘handing over monuments to private business’.

As per the Memorandum of Understanding signed by the Dalmia Group, it will spend Rs 25 crore over five years for the upkeep of the monument. The group has agreed to provide basic amenities like drinking water kiosks and benches within six months while further improvement will be carried out within a year, newswire agency PTI reported.

The ‘Adopt A Heritage’ scheme allows private and public companies as well as individuals to participate in a ‘vision bidding’. Successful bidders become ‘Monument Mitras’ and provide basic and advanced amenities for the ‘adopted’ site. These partners are required to look after operations and maintenance of the site for a period of five years, as per government guidelines. The project begins with 93 ASI ticketed monuments and will be expanded to include other sites across India.

Alphons said these private entities will not get access to the monument or be able to sell tickets, but can put up signs approved by the Archaeological Survey of India.

When asked why does the government needs corporate houses to put up benches and provide drinking water, Alphons said, “It is a question of involvement of the people.”

“It is after all the heritage of the people, not some babus sitting in ASI or tourism ministry,” the former bureaucrat turned minister added.

Watch the full interview here.